Any good links or articles on proper stage gaining?

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Any good links or articles on proper stage gaining?

Post by jckinnick » Wed Apr 16, 2008 3:06 pm

Anybody?

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Re: Any good links or articles on proper stage gaining?

Post by Nick Sevilla » Wed Apr 16, 2008 3:50 pm

jckinnick wrote:Anybody?
Hi,

Really, gain staging is about knowing what levels to output from a given device, and what input levels to feed a given device.

When you hook both of them together, you simply make sure they are both operating at their properl levels.

For example, a microphone into a mic pre:

You would make suer the mic is getting the correct level from the source. ie the SOURCE must excite the microphone at the right level. Too low, make it louder, too loud, turn it down.

Then the mic preamplifier will see the correct output from the mic, and you can then turn up / down the mic preamp, if it feeds any other gear down the line. Like in a mixer, the mic reamp goes to the EQ, the to Auxes, then to a Direct out / group out.

Cheers
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Post by dsw » Wed Apr 16, 2008 5:37 pm

I'm an expert on weight gaining.

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Re: Any good links or articles on proper stage gaining?

Post by joel hamilton » Thu Apr 17, 2008 4:23 pm

noeqplease wrote:
jckinnick wrote:Anybody?
Hi,

Really, gain staging is about knowing what levels to output from a given device, and what input levels to feed a given device.

When you hook both of them together, you simply make sure they are both operating at their properl levels.

For example, a microphone into a mic pre:

You would make suer the mic is getting the correct level from the source. ie the SOURCE must excite the microphone at the right level. Too low, make it louder, too loud, turn it down.

Then the mic preamplifier will see the correct output from the mic, and you can then turn up / down the mic preamp, if it feeds any other gear down the line. Like in a mixer, the mic reamp goes to the EQ, the to Auxes, then to a Direct out / group out.

Cheers
Sorry, but this is oversimplified to the point that it is not even valid as a definition of gain staging.

Gain Staging is SO much more than what is written above, and one of the only ways that I know of to make a simplified, umbrella statement about it is to say this:

The art of Gain staging:
Knowing when to amplify, and when to attenuate in any given signal chain to achieve a specific result.

I could go on forEVER about this. Gain is the first tone shaping "device" or "tool" I will go for, before reaching for anything else. Or attenuation... that would be the first thing I "reach" for in a given case to "round off" or "slow down" a given source....

If you have a specific question, I will answer it, otherwise this could be a never ending rant....

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Post by RefD » Thu Apr 17, 2008 4:25 pm

dsw wrote:I'm an expert on weight gaining.
get in line, slim!
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Post by lionaudio » Thu Apr 17, 2008 5:17 pm

definitely listen to joel's info on this... he really helped me grasp the beginning of gain staging just over email.. pick his brain

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Re: Any good links or articles on proper stage gaining?

Post by kdarr » Thu Apr 17, 2008 5:29 pm

joel hamilton wrote:
noeqplease wrote:
jckinnick wrote:Anybody?
Hi,

Really, gain staging is about knowing what levels to output from a given device, and what input levels to feed a given device.

When you hook both of them together, you simply make sure they are both operating at their properl levels.

For example, a microphone into a mic pre:

You would make suer the mic is getting the correct level from the source. ie the SOURCE must excite the microphone at the right level. Too low, make it louder, too loud, turn it down.

Then the mic preamplifier will see the correct output from the mic, and you can then turn up / down the mic preamp, if it feeds any other gear down the line. Like in a mixer, the mic reamp goes to the EQ, the to Auxes, then to a Direct out / group out.

Cheers
Sorry, but this is oversimplified to the point that it is not even valid as a definition of gain staging.

Gain Staging is SO much more than what is written above, and one of the only ways that I know of to make a simplified, umbrella statement about it is to say this:

The art of Gain staging:
Knowing when to amplify, and when to attenuate in any given signal chain to achieve a specific result.

I could go on forEVER about this. Gain is the first tone shaping "device" or "tool" I will go for, before reaching for anything else. Or attenuation... that would be the first thing I "reach" for in a given case to "round off" or "slow down" a given source....

If you have a specific question, I will answer it, otherwise this could be a never ending rant....
I dunno Joel, I think it's an adequate, albeit extremely basic, description of what the term "gain staging" means. Enough to get the guy going, anyway.

In most recording primers & textbooks (Huber/Runstein, etc) gain staging is mainly described as controlling operating levels for each stage to maximize headroom and minimize noise. Many engineers only understand gain staging on this basic level and really don't go much further than that - a purely FUNCTIONAL description - which I think is okay for starters. Frankly, this is about as far as I myself have gotten, and I'm not embarrassed to admit it.

However, a far more experienced engineer (such as yourself) understands that gain staging can be far more than just maximizing operational headroom/noise floor - it can be an artistic and aesthetic decision. Understanding the SOUND of each individual stage in a chain and knowing how that will affect the conglomerated result, is "some next level shit," so to speak.

Choosing certain pieces of gear for a signal chain and running them "too hot," "too cold," or "just right" on the front OR back end, and taking advantage of their distortion properties/slew rates/transient response etc. is absolutely an art. From what I've read of your posts here and heard on your recordings, (admittedly I only own two) using gain staging as an artistic choice and a tone-sculpting method is one of your personal strengths.

BUT let's face it, getting to that point takes years of experimentation, LISTENING, and refinement that really can't be explained in a simple message board post.

So, you know, the layman's description is probably okay for now. :)

[<|>]

P.S. - Apologies to everyone for the overly-verbose post. I babble when I'm sleep-deprived.

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Re: Any good links or articles on proper stage gaining?

Post by jckinnick » Thu Apr 17, 2008 9:44 pm

joel hamilton wrote:
noeqplease wrote:
jckinnick wrote:Anybody?
Hi,

Really, gain staging is about knowing what levels to output from a given device, and what input levels to feed a given device.

When you hook both of them together, you simply make sure they are both operating at their properl levels.

For example, a microphone into a mic pre:

You would make suer the mic is getting the correct level from the source. ie the SOURCE must excite the microphone at the right level. Too low, make it louder, too loud, turn it down.

Then the mic preamplifier will see the correct output from the mic, and you can then turn up / down the mic preamp, if it feeds any other gear down the line. Like in a mixer, the mic reamp goes to the EQ, the to Auxes, then to a Direct out / group out.

Cheers
Sorry, but this is oversimplified to the point that it is not even valid as a definition of gain staging.

Gain Staging is SO much more than what is written above, and one of the only ways that I know of to make a simplified, umbrella statement about it is to say this:

The art of Gain staging:
Knowing when to amplify, and when to attenuate in any given signal chain to achieve a specific result.

I could go on forEVER about this. Gain is the first tone shaping "device" or "tool" I will go for, before reaching for anything else. Or attenuation... that would be the first thing I "reach" for in a given case to "round off" or "slow down" a given source....

If you have a specific question, I will answer it, otherwise this could be a never ending rant....
Thanks Joel I thought it might be a dumb question. Is it correct that if you dont get the first gain staging correct in your chain of recording that it will only get worse down the line.

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Post by Professor » Fri Apr 18, 2008 2:30 am

At its simplest "gain" is simply amplification, the opposite of attenuation.
I think the important place to start is to understand what is actually acting as an amplifier in a given system and what isn't.
Start with a familiar friend, the mixing console. In most cases, the only place that amplification is really happening is at the preamp. Yeah, the faders may say "+10dB" at the top of their range. But the fader doesn't magically become an amplifier as you slide past that point, it is just calibrated there against the earlier amplification.
"0 dB" is supposed to mean "no change" in these kinds of applications, and the true job of the fader is to turn down a signal. And so my approach to gain staging on say, a live sound board, is to set the main output at 0dB, set the channel fader at 0dB, and then adjust the gain until I have the particular channel at a level about where I expect I'd like to have it. (I consider my gain staging to be set right when all the faders can lie straight across at 0dB and the mix sounds great.) During the show, I have plenty of room to bring things down if they're playing louder than the soundcheck (don't they always?) and I have a little extra push up to that +10dB point if I need it. It also helps that I have the most generous part of the fader available to me, with an inch or so in either direction for get from -10, thru 0, to +10. If you set the fader really low, like -30 or so, and crank the gain up higher, you will be in at a more noisey part of the preamp, and you won't have the range for subtlety on the fader because it has about 1/4-inch movement on each side to move +/- 10dB.

Now there are amplifiers elsewhere in the recording chain - pretty much at every input or output for every device you have. In this case, "gain staging" is making certain that you aren't repeatedly turning down (attenuating) a signal just to amplify it again at the next step of the process. Like if you leave the preamp really hot and have to turn down going into an EQ, but then you turn up in the EQ and are too loud when hitting the compressor, so you turn down at that input just to crank the volume back up with the makeup gain in the compressor, and so on, and so on. Each time you pass the signal through an amplifier there is a little noise introduced into the signal. The more amplification you need to apply at all those various stages, the noisier the final signal is going to sound.

Ideally you'll amplify with as few "gain stages" as possible and you will attenuate with attenuation devices.

But of course, that's under theoretical conditions. In real situations, all those gain stages will also add a different tonal coloration to each of the signals, and those can be used as an effect like Joel explained.

-Jeremy

-Jeremy

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Post by joel hamilton » Fri Apr 18, 2008 6:44 am

Real world application type of example here:

If you have a console, and you are mixing OTB but coming out of a DAW.
Try pulling the level WAY down with a plug in. Something simple, like a HP or LP type plug in with a level "knob" on it. Then use something outboard to turn it up a little, like a compressor that you know well. Then turn it up a little more with the line amp on the console. then EQ it, and possibly have yet another amplifier in line, like yeat another compressor as a post EQ insert. DOnt compress much, if at all , with these compressors, just use the line amps. Fader at "0"...

Listen to how the source (lets call it, "the vocal"), listen to how the vocal no relates to the snare drum, or the drums in general, an the guitar.

Now do the opposite. crank the source with the plug in, way up but not clipping. or clipping once in a while, not really audibly.
ATTENUATE with every stage along the way, and use a cut only strategy for your EQ. Listen to how the vocal NOW relates to the drums, and the guitar.

This is because of the academic aspects that have been pointed out earlier in this thread. In some cases, we will be "maximizing signal to noise" and in som cases we will not. Etc,etc,etc read above for the rest of the theoretical, true, perfect basics of gain staging.

Just like knowing WHEN to brake going into a turn, and when to hit the gas again coming out of a turn in a very fast car... when to amplify, and when to attenuate shoul be som of the FIRST concerns when sitting down in front of a bunch of tracks you are charged with making into a coherent, cohesive, exciting, engaging listening experience.

If you want to do this by phone, email me. I cant type fast enough.....

joelhamilton@[mac]dot com.

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Re: Any good links or articles on proper stage gaining?

Post by Nick Sevilla » Fri Apr 18, 2008 9:49 am

kdarr wrote:
joel hamilton wrote:
noeqplease wrote:
jckinnick wrote:Anybody?
Hi,

Really, gain staging is about knowing what levels to output from a given device, and what input levels to feed a given device.

When you hook both of them together, you simply make sure they are both operating at their properl levels.

For example, a microphone into a mic pre:

You would make suer the mic is getting the correct level from the source. ie the SOURCE must excite the microphone at the right level. Too low, make it louder, too loud, turn it down.

Then the mic preamplifier will see the correct output from the mic, and you can then turn up / down the mic preamp, if it feeds any other gear down the line. Like in a mixer, the mic reamp goes to the EQ, the to Auxes, then to a Direct out / group out.

Cheers
Sorry, but this is oversimplified to the point that it is not even valid as a definition of gain staging.

Gain Staging is SO much more than what is written above, and one of the only ways that I know of to make a simplified, umbrella statement about it is to say this:

The art of Gain staging:
Knowing when to amplify, and when to attenuate in any given signal chain to achieve a specific result.

I could go on forEVER about this. Gain is the first tone shaping "device" or "tool" I will go for, before reaching for anything else. Or attenuation... that would be the first thing I "reach" for in a given case to "round off" or "slow down" a given source....

If you have a specific question, I will answer it, otherwise this could be a never ending rant....
I dunno Joel, I think it's an adequate, albeit extremely basic, description of what the term "gain staging" means. Enough to get the guy going, anyway.

In most recording primers & textbooks (Huber/Runstein, etc) gain staging is mainly described as controlling operating levels for each stage to maximize headroom and minimize noise. Many engineers only understand gain staging on this basic level and really don't go much further than that - a purely FUNCTIONAL description - which I think is okay for starters. Frankly, this is about as far as I myself have gotten, and I'm not embarrassed to admit it.

However, a far more experienced engineer (such as yourself) understands that gain staging can be far more than just maximizing operational headroom/noise floor - it can be an artistic and aesthetic decision. Understanding the SOUND of each individual stage in a chain and knowing how that will affect the conglomerated result, is "some next level shit," so to speak.

Choosing certain pieces of gear for a signal chain and running them "too hot," "too cold," or "just right" on the front OR back end, and taking advantage of their distortion properties/slew rates/transient response etc. is absolutely an art. From what I've read of your posts here and heard on your recordings, (admittedly I only own two) using gain staging as an artistic choice and a tone-sculpting method is one of your personal strengths.

BUT let's face it, getting to that point takes years of experimentation, LISTENING, and refinement that really can't be explained in a simple message board post.

So, you know, the layman's description is probably okay for now. :)

[<|>]

P.S. - Apologies to everyone for the overly-verbose post. I babble when I'm sleep-deprived.
Hi kdarr, thanks for the defense.

Joel, I described gain staging as simply as possible, since the question is simple.

This comes form the maxim:

Simple questions require simple answers.

If the OP wants to know more about gain staging, he is certainly welcome to ask more detailed questions. I'll be more than happy to answer them as simply and directly as possible.

Cheers
Realizing vibratory excursions from a paper widget.

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Re: Any good links or articles on proper stage gaining?

Post by joel hamilton » Fri Apr 18, 2008 10:39 am

noeqplease wrote:
kdarr wrote:
joel hamilton wrote:
noeqplease wrote:
jckinnick wrote:Anybody?

P.S. - Apologies to everyone for the overly-verbose post. I babble when I'm sleep-deprived.
Hi kdarr, thanks for the defense.

Joel, I described gain staging as simply as possible, since the question is simple.

This comes form the maxim:

Simple questions require simple answers.

If the OP wants to know more about gain staging, he is certainly welcome to ask more detailed questions. I'll be more than happy to answer them as simply and directly as possible.

Cheers
I can dig it.
No big deal. I just have a lot to say on the matter I guess. My posts come with baggage from some old threads about this very subject. do a search and it will eventually turn up, though the search engine here is kind of, um, not good.

I am glad you answered the question with accuracy, and clear terms. This is how this messageboard is supposed to work.

:fig8:

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Re: Any good links or articles on proper stage gaining?

Post by Nick Sevilla » Fri Apr 18, 2008 11:04 am

joel hamilton wrote:
noeqplease wrote:
kdarr wrote:
joel hamilton wrote:
noeqplease wrote:
jckinnick wrote:Anybody?

P.S. - Apologies to everyone for the overly-verbose post. I babble when I'm sleep-deprived.
Hi kdarr, thanks for the defense.

Joel, I described gain staging as simply as possible, since the question is simple.

This comes form the maxim:

Simple questions require simple answers.

If the OP wants to know more about gain staging, he is certainly welcome to ask more detailed questions. I'll be more than happy to answer them as simply and directly as possible.

Cheers
I can dig it.
No big deal. I just have a lot to say on the matter I guess. My posts come with baggage from some old threads about this very subject. do a search and it will eventually turn up, though the search engine here is kind of, um, not good.

I am glad you answered the question with accuracy, and clear terms. This is how this messageboard is supposed to work.

:fig8:
Thanks Joel.

I like some of the answers on your post, as far as using gain staging as a creative tool. But, this of course comes after having the knowledge of what gain staging is. It is one of the more misunderstood concepts in audio.

As to what I know, I know enough from restoring old Neve boards, re-modeling studios, and even building some home studios for artists.

I am nowhere near an authority on gain staging, but the Neve method from those lovely 70's boards have gain staging at almost every knob. This contradicts an earlier posting that erroneously made the general statement that the gain stage in a mixing board is only at the preamplifier stage.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

In a Neve 80s series desk channel, there are :

1. Mic preampliifer / Line preamplifier (different amplifier sections.) This is enclosed in the Equalizer section.

2. Inside this Equalizer , for example the 1081 series (NOT the reissue), there are 8 gain stages :

1 for the Mic input

1 for the line input

1 for the hipass filter

1 for the lowpass filter

3 for 1 each of the three bands of selectable EQ : High Mids, Low Mids and Lows.

And finally 1 output gain amplifier.

These gain stages, in this particular model of EQ are ALWAYS in the signal path.
These control how much signal goes into the next stage of EQ, and is known as a "cascading" gain system.

After this EQ section, there are :

1 Fader output amplifier. This is for prefader / postfader gain control. A patch point goes here, in order to insert in-channel effects like compression.

1 Auxiliary output amplifier. (per Auxiliary channel)

1 Group Buss amplifier (per each group, ie a 24 Buss desk has 24 of these)

So by the time you hit tape or AD converter, in this case you are in fact looking at a total of 9 (nine) amplifier gain stages.

A typical stereo mix in this type of desk will also include the stereo output amplifiers (L+R) for a total of also nine gain stages. (instead of the group output the signal goes to the main mix output).

So, yes, there are many gain stages, and in order to get a great sound, all of them have to operate correctly. Other mixing boards are a little different, but not by much. They will differ in as much as what the equalizer type is.

The distortion in each of these gain stages is likewise different, and can be useful for sound sculpting ideas. Also distortion in any of these stages can indicate a faulty part.

Cheers
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Re: Any good links or articles on proper stage gaining?

Post by Professor » Fri Apr 18, 2008 12:08 pm

noeqplease wrote:I am nowhere near an authority on gain staging, but the Neve method from those lovely 70's boards have gain staging at almost every knob. This contradicts an earlier posting that erroneously made the general statement that the gain stage in a mixing board is only at the preamplifier stage.
Nothing could be further from the truth.....
Somehow I knew someone would misunderstand that and go into this end of the story.
OK, a couple of things - one is that very few people operate large format modular boards and don't know about gain staging. But a small format board like a Mackie, Behringer, A&H, Soundcraft, etc. is going to have a somewhat different topology than the 80-series Neve, and that's where most of us tend to start.
Second, we're not talking about gain stages from the electrical engineer's perspective, but the gain staging of which we would be in direct control. There may well be lots of little op-amps at work even in these little boards, and many of them are set to 1:1 gain, or something close enough to it (1.2:1, 1.5:1, etc.) nothing like the 60-70dB of gain at the preamp.
And last of course, is that we have to consider the gain stages that we would actually directly control, as either gain or attenuation, and how those apply to the recordings we're making. That's the gain staging we're usually talking about from the applied side of recording.
So are there amplifiers everywhere in every piece of audio gear? Of course there are, and that's why every additional piece of gear, band of EQ, etc., even if set to a neutral 0-dB setting, will still introduce additional noise. But taken at its simplest for those who are just learning about gain staging, it's important to know where the large amounts of gain are introduced, and which items are really meant to be attenuators. That will help to reduce that signal-to-noise thing... or increase if you really want to do that.

-Jeremy

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Re: Any good links or articles on proper stage gaining?

Post by Nick Sevilla » Fri Apr 18, 2008 2:37 pm

Professor wrote:
noeqplease wrote:I am nowhere near an authority on gain staging, but the Neve method from those lovely 70's boards have gain staging at almost every knob. This contradicts an earlier posting that erroneously made the general statement that the gain stage in a mixing board is only at the preamplifier stage.
Nothing could be further from the truth.....
Somehow I knew someone would misunderstand that and go into this end of the story.
OK, a couple of things - one is that very few people operate large format modular boards and don't know about gain staging. But a small format board like a Mackie, Behringer, A&H, Soundcraft, etc. is going to have a somewhat different topology than the 80-series Neve, and that's where most of us tend to start.
Second, we're not talking about gain stages from the electrical engineer's perspective, but the gain staging of which we would be in direct control. There may well be lots of little op-amps at work even in these little boards, and many of them are set to 1:1 gain, or something close enough to it (1.2:1, 1.5:1, etc.) nothing like the 60-70dB of gain at the preamp.
And last of course, is that we have to consider the gain stages that we would actually directly control, as either gain or attenuation, and how those apply to the recordings we're making. That's the gain staging we're usually talking about from the applied side of recording.
So are there amplifiers everywhere in every piece of audio gear? Of course there are, and that's why every additional piece of gear, band of EQ, etc., even if set to a neutral 0-dB setting, will still introduce additional noise. But taken at its simplest for those who are just learning about gain staging, it's important to know where the large amounts of gain are introduced, and which items are really meant to be attenuators. That will help to reduce that signal-to-noise thing... or increase if you really want to do that.

-Jeremy
Hi Jeremy,

I did not misunderstand the topic. Please read my earlier first post, which is much much simpler.

I just had to vent, since I saw some answers to my post which were inaccurate.

I agree, anyone starting out in this field should by no means go into exhaustive detail as to all the different components that go into a particular piece of gear. Unless they are aiming to be a tech...

Cheers
Realizing vibratory excursions from a paper widget.

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